Health and Wellness: Carbohydrates

Blog 8.1: Carbohydrates
As we discussed on the last blog, carbohydrates are an essential macronutrient and represent the primary fuel for our body and brain. So why are carbs so frequently maligned in our culture.
Because indeed there are “good” carbohydrates and “bad” carbohydrates. For simplicity, good carbohydrates can be classified as complex carbohydrates and “bad” carbohydrates as simple carbohydrates or simple sugars. Complex carbohydrates contain fiber, starch and sugar whereas simple carbs are composed of one or 2 sugar molecules. Simple carbs contain no fiber or starch.

In addition to table sugar, candy, soda, and syrups are common forms of simple sugars. Also, refined or processed flour such as white flour which is devoid of fiber and germ can be absorbed by our body nearly as quickly as simple sugars. Furthermore, the processing which is needed to turn a wheat berry into white flour removes not just the fiber, but most of the vitamins, mineral and phytonutrients which are essential for our health.  By eating highly processed products such as white bread, white pasta, and refined sugary cereals, you get a sugar spike in your bloodstream which is followed by an Insulin spike. Harmful effects of sugar spike and insulin spike include increased risk for Diabetes, heart disease, and  obesity.
Complex carbs, such as the ones found in whole grain wheat or barley, all vegetables, and essentially all fruits are health promoting because in addition to sugar they contain fiber and starch. These complex carbs are absorbed by our body in a much more deliberate fashion and do not lead to the sugar spike or Insulin spike. In fact, whole grains, vegetables, and fruits protect us from heart disease, stroke, cancer, Diabetes, and other chronic disease.
Furthermore, complex carbohydrates, when consumed in their unprocessed or minimally processed form retain essentially all of their vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Recall, from our previous post, phytonutrients contain powerful antioxidants, anticancer agents, and anti-inflammatory compounds. So when you deprive yourself of these healthy carbs, by being on a low carb diet, you are depriving yourself of foods that reduce your risk for diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Moreover, these amazing plant compounds are essential for eye health, have anti-aging properties, and are protective against neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s Dz.
So next time you are at the grocery store, load up on healthy carbs, such as the ones found in green leafy vegetables, colorful vegetables and fruits, beans of various kinds, nuts, seeds, and whole grain breads and pastas and skip the white bread, white pasta, refined sugary cereals, cookies, and sodas.
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